Thursday, August 02, 2007

St Spyridon's

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On Friday morning, we packed up and headed back to Corfu Town, where we would catch the ferry back to the mainland at 4 pm. We had all day, then, to wander around the capital.

Our first order of business was, of course, to find St Spyridon. We stopped at a church dedicated to the Mother of God to ask for directions, and I was able to take a couple pictures of the interior (see the top two photos). As you can see, the design and artwork is very similar to the baroque-style Catholic churches we saw in Rome. The Catholic Venetians held Corfu for over 200 years (approx. 1550-1797), and many of the originally Orthodox churches became Catholic churches during this time.

From there, we went to St Spyridon’s. The third photo is of the entrance to his temple. We were not allowed to take photographs inside, but it was a similar baroque style to the photos above.

The incorrupt body of St Spyridon (270-348 AD) is housed in a special room to the right of the altar. When we came in, we were fortunate that the priests were there to open up the coffin so that we could venerate his actual body – actually his famous feet. They call him the ‘walking saint,’ because he is still so active in performing miracles that he wears out his shoes – they have to change them regularly! After they change his slippers, they cut them into small pieces and hand them out as blessings to pilgrims – we were fortunate to receive these as well.

There are thousands of reports of miracles he has performed. For more information on him, start here. Despite being associated in modern times with Corfu, the saint actually lived his earthly life in Cyprus, and was a bishop there. He grew up as a simple shepherd, who was elevated to bishop after his wife died. He participated in the First Ecumenical Council in 325 AD, and, along with St Athanasios the Great and St Nicholas of Myra, is said to have had a profound influence on the defeat of Arianism at the council, despite the fact that he was uneducated.

After St Spyridon’s, we walked around the temple for awhile, through narrow alleys full of tourist trinkets, etc. (See bottom photo.) I was quite surprised, actually, how ‘touristy’ the island was. It seems to be a particularly popular vacation spot for the British and Italians.

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